Two days before his 25th birthday, in 1998, Sachin Tendulkar performed one of his greatest acts. We are talking about ‘The Desert Storm’, a knock that defined two things: Tendulkar’s character and his God-like status among fans. This was Sharjah and India took on Australia. At stake was a place in the final of the tri-nation Coca-Cola Cup. India were required to either beat Australians or finish with better Net Run Rate (NRR) than the third team in the series, New Zealand. Australia were already through but they were not going to make things easier for India here.
An iconic photo featuring two of the sport’s greatest icons _
Australia put on 284 for 7 in 50 overs
India, led by Mohammad Azharuddin, were nervous chasers in those days. After Australia won the toss, they asked Indians to chase. Australia knew that in these conditions, it would be easy to face NZ in the final than India. Mark Waugh (81) Michael Bevan (101) got Australia to 284 for 7 in 50 overs. T20s were not a thing then. A 285-run target was a daunting task, especially in Sharjah, against a bowling lineup that had names like Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz and the genius Shane Warne.
India pinned hopes on Tendulkar to come good again. There is a reason the Indian legend got the status of ‘God’ here in India. Whenever things went out of hand on the 22 yards, Sachin was there to take the team out of trouble. Fans wished for a Tendulkar special. And a Tendulkar special was delivered to them.
Tendulkar’s Desert Storm !!__#OnThisDay in 1998 __ Need 238 (46ovr) to Qualify for Finals.
SACHIN TENDULKAR did it alone With His Blistering 143 Runs._
Tony Greig+ @sachin_rt_
— CrickeTendulkar __ (@CrickeTendulkar) April 22, 2023
An unforgettable knock
During the game a sandstorm hit the stadium in Sharjah. It brought the game to a standtill for good half an hour before resumption. When one sandstorm came to an end, another began as Tendulkar got into his zone and played shots which are still etched in memory of those who saw it. ‘The Desert Storm’ is how newspapers, commentators and cricket pundits would go on to call this special by Tendulkar.
“It just cannot be put into words. Over the head, through covers, through midwicket, it seemed he just sent the ball wherever he wanted to. It was an amazing knock, and that’s why he rates it as one of his best,” Mazhar Khan, the managing director of the historic Sharjah Stadium, told Hindustan Times.
The Desert Storm
Sourav Ganguly, his opening partner back after scoring just 17, Tendulkar reached his fifty in the 22nd over. It came off 57 balls and courtesy 3 fours and 2 sixes respectively. But like it happened on most days in Indian cricket, the team panicked in a chase, going from 107 for 1 to 138 for 4 in no time. From the 29th over, Tendulkar took charge and enthralled the cricket-mad crowd at the stadium with terrifric shot making. The big sixes at Sharjah lit up the night sky. Tendulkar stood firm alone it seemed against 11 Aussies. To see such strokes come one after the other under such a pressure situation made for a great watch.
Now even Twitter allows more than 280 characters – how to describe this special innings in one word? _
Chalo you try!? https://t.co/ayIrrpA35S
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) April 21, 2023
The Duckworth Lewis had cut short the target to 276 but what Tendulkar eyed was the cut off of 237 to qualify for the final. With nine fours and five sixes, Tendulkar had beautifully constructed 143 off 131 balls to take India past the qualification mark before departing.
India lost the match by 26 runs (DLS) but reached the final of the tri-series on basis of a superior NRR. Tendulkar smashed 134 in the final to guide India to a memorable win. However, it is the ‘The Desert Storm’ that is remembered more by the fans for the fans saw Tendulkar own Aussies like never before, at a time when chips were down.